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“Law and order” and the role of the police

While corporate criminals destroy lives…

It is estimated by the US Bureau of National Affairs that “…the dollar cost of corporate crime is over twenty times greater than the combined larcenies, thefts, robberies, and burglaries committed by individuals.”  These corporate thefts and embezzlements ruin millions of lives, and they wreak untold havoc upon stockholders, employees, retirees, and the overall economy.  These crimes often wipe out the life savings of countless numbers of people, yet they go largely unpunished.

Large corporations also constantly get caught engaging in conspiracies to commit mass murder for profit—the GM ignition switch scandal, the thalidomide scandal, the Ford Pinto exploding gas tank scandal, on and on—yet the perpetrators of these conspiracies not only suffer no consequences for their horrific crimes but they often get a large bonus.

Corporate criminals are rarely caught, and when they are caught, they rarely go to prison, and when they go to prison, it is usually for one or two years at a minimum-security ‘country-club’ that does not even have any walls or fences surrounding it.

Police are tasked to deal with the side effects

In this hierarchy, the street cop is the equivalent of the garbage man in that they are sent to take care of all the problems that no one else wants to deal with.  Cops are constantly confronting the very worst that humanity has to offer and they deal with it day in and day out.  Even when they are dealing with otherwise good people, they are often dealing with them at a very bad time.

I suspect that there are very few people who can do that whilst yet maintaining anything close to a healthy mental state.  I suspect that most cops must grow a thick shell in order to protect their mental health, in fact.  They need to dehumanize people because they deal with so much human misery and suffering on such a regular basis that they can’t allow themselves to see these wretches as ‘people’ lest their hearts totally break.

Thus they begin to fear and mistrust the people that they police.  They see too much of what goes on behind their closed doors. They find themselves uncomfortable socializing with normal people during their off times because they themselves have become so abnormal—and so they begin socializing exclusively with other cops, thus further reinforcing their community neurosis.

As their shell thickens, they become ever more out of touch with the world of light and beauty.  They exist within a highly insulated bubble world that is cynical, cruel, and debased.  Since cops must constantly stifle many of their most basic human qualities, only other cops can understand.  They hang out exclusively with other cops because they are the only ones who are twisted in that special manner unique to cops. Even cops’ wives only hang out with other cops’ wives—and anecdotally, I once had a girlfriend who had previously dated a cop, and she said that the other cops’ wives subjected her to a variety of litmus tests to make sure she was worthy to join their exclusive little club.

What does a cop have to say to a teacher or to a factory worker in a bar after work, after all? The thing is that cops are humans too, and their responses to their realities are also human. This doesn’t make it right or okay and this doesn’t mean we don’t fight their mindset with everything we have—I just think it would also be good to keep their humanity in mind as we do it.

Dana Walker is the producer of a weekly podcast, The Thunderbolt, and a longtime Olympia resident.

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